Shifts Against Right-Handed Hitters

June 27, 2014

In general, defensive shifts have increased dramatically over the last few seasons. That trend is more than simply a greater number of teams deciding to shift players like David Ortiz and Chris Davis. Teams are also relying on hitter ball-in-play tendencies to uncover nontraditional candidates to shift. One such grouping is right-handed hitters.

We frequently cite how the total number of shifts in baseball has nearly doubled in each of the last three seasons. For right-handed hitters, shifts have increased exponentially. From 2011 to 2012, shifts against right-handed hitters increased nearly tenfold. The 2014 season is not yet half over, but teams have already flown by the 1,718 shifts versus right-handed batters from a year ago.

MLB Shifts on Balls in Play vs. RHBs
Season Shifts
2010 40
2011 84
2012 787
2013 1,718
2014 Prorated 4,032*
*Based on 1,943 shifts vs. RHBs so far in 2014


On the team level, it feels a little bit like it did two years ago for the overall shifts trend. From 2011 to 2012, baseball went from 4 teams shifting 100 or more hitters to 18 teams doing so. Meanwhile, in 2013, only 7 teams shifted 100 or more right-handed hitters. This season, 6 teams have already reached 100 shifts against right-handers, and another 6 are on pace to join them by the season’s end.

Here are the leaders in shifts vs. right-handed batters:

Most Shifts on Balls in Play vs. RHBs
Team 2014 Prorated
Astros 705
Yankees 410
Pirates 336
Brewers 316
Rays 273


A few specific right-handed hitters are beginning to show up on the overall shifted leaderboards. Albert Pujols, Edwin Encarnacion, and Jose Bautista are the three righties who have already reached 100 shifted plate appearances this season. All three players are among the 20 most shifted hitters from either side of the plate.

Here is the list of the most shifted right-handed batters in 2014:

Most Heavily Shifted RHBs
Batter Shifted PA
Albert Pujols 165
Edwin Encarnacion 147
Jose Bautista 118
Evan Longoria 79
Chris Carter 74

Evan Longoria and Chris Carter may not have the same reputation for being extreme pull hitters like the first three names on the list, but since the start of 2013, they have pulled 87 and 88 percent of their groundballs and short line drives, respectively. That makes them 2 of the 20 most extreme pull hitters (either bat side, minimum 100 groundballs and short line drives) and has them right in line with Pujols and Encarnacion over the same time frame.


COMMENTS (5 Comments, most recent shown first)

In watching the W.S., many players went with the pitch, regardless if there was a shift or not.
Tex is a prime example of a player ( batting left handed) who refuses to go the other way.
It boggles my mind that professional hitters don't go to the opposite field.

2:00 PM Jan 5th
Are the pitchers pitching inside more when the shift is on?

I'm assuming the goal is to make the guy hit into the shift, not take it to the opposite field.

10:08 PM Jun 29th
Could this be because of Jeter, and we will see a falloff next year? :-)
5:47 PM Jun 28th
John, I would have guessed that with all this shifting going on that batting averages on ground balls would be in decline. But look:

Batting average on balls in play- ground ball split.
2009: .234
2010: .235
2011: .236
2012: .238
2013: .236
2014: .243

2009: .239
2010: .233
2011: .238
2012: .237
2013: .243
2014: .245

The last two seasons in the AL (just this year for the NL) average on ground balls has jumped 7 to 8 points after staying pretty stable. Is this because shifting has backfired, or is there another reason? In any case, the averages aren't going down.
12:20 AM Jun 28th
Interesting stuff, John. Anybody effecting an "up-the-middle" shift, where the corners OF and IF move dramatically to the middle?
5:58 PM Jun 27th
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